A hearty welcome back to another post about specialty crops grown in Indonesia!
What a fantastic spice is made out of these little pieces called cloves.The intense flavor of the funny looking flower buds, which are picked from wild trees and simply dried in the tropical sun when laid out on cloth – as seen everywhere in Indonesia (see Pic. 1).
Cloves – Botanical feature
The plant is classified of the botanic family Myrtaceae and further to the species Syzygium aromaticum. This evergreen tree grows originally in the Mollucas – also called Spice Islands of Indonesia, and can reach a height of 12 m. The flowers are grouped in terminal clusters as shown in Pic. 2. The early developed flower buds are pale, then turning into shadows of green and at harvest being fully red with a length of 1.5 to 2 cm (0.59 – 0.79 in). As it looks like a nail in shape the Latin name “clove” was given to these little flower buds (see again Pic. 1).
The origin of this inspiring spice is documented in the Mollucas, where the oldest clove tree in the world is reported on Ternate, one of these spice Islands of Indonesia, being 350 – 400 years old (!) (by: Worrall, Simon (23 June 2012). “The world’s oldest clove tree”. BBC News Magazine).
It is told that this spice was introduced to other regions out of the Moluccas through stolen seedlings from this very tree in 1770 and then transferred to Mauritius, from where it arrived to Zanzibar. This African island once was the main producer of cloves.
However, before clove trees were planted outside of Indonesia, the processed oil was traded by the Dutch East India Company. This trade company was very powerful and tried to get a monopoly in cloves as they had for nutmeg. But as cloves grew all over the Indonesian Islands, they did not succeed in their efforts.
For those of you, who want to know more about the rich history of cloves plants, you may find more information under this link:
As we all know from our childhood, cloves added to dishes like soups, fruits or Cole do not taste nice, when we bite on them, right? So, we learnt to carefully seek them out before eating and enjoy instead the wonderful rich sweet and aromatic flavor as an ingredient!
Oh, how intense is the smell of cloves – we are really dazzled by its intense aroma (!) – even more in hot meals.
Moreover, we can find cloves in the Asian, African, Near and Mid East regions – also combined with citron or sugar. In Mexico, they include also cinnamon and cumin with the so-called “clavos de olor” and in Peru they prepare “carapulcra” (Pic. 3) and “arroz con leche” with cloves.
The oil does the kick
Interestingly, – but for more advanced readers about spices not surprisingly (!) – the most important compound for the aroma of cloves is the oil. More specifically Eugenol is present between 72 and 90 % in the essence of clove oil extractions; this constituent is responsible for the taste and smell – giving us this intense touch of senses!
By the way, Eugenol has not been classified to be toxic.
One more interesting use to close with
There is a special use for cloves in Indonesia, which is smoking in a cigarette called “kretek”. Also in Europe this kind of cigarette is smoked – as well as in Asia and the US.
Here below see the typical lay out of cloves for drying in the sun – (photo link: